England are crossing their fingers over the fitness of captain Eoin Morgan after swapping Australia for New Zealand, where they will hope to rediscover their Twenty20 mojo.
The tourists finally ended their winter-long stay in Australia yesterday, a trip that saw them lose the Ashes 4-0 and then gain a measure of revenge with a 4-1 success in the 50-over campaign – though batsman Dawid Malan is the only player who can claim to have been present throughout.
They signed off with back-to-back defeats in the triangular T20 series and now face two games against the Black Caps with a place in the Auckland final on the line.
What role the captain will play is uncertain after he pulled out of Saturday’s seven-wicket defeat with a groin injury sustained in training on the eve of the match.
A lengthy and disruptive travel day left him little opportunity for rest – England were delayed for five hours at the airport in Melbourne due to low-lying fog in Wellington – and he will be assessed by medical staff ahead of nets today.
Morgan has been going through a lean run of form with bat in hand, but is still the country’s most experienced T20 cricketer and an on-field general whose calm authority and decision-making contributed heavily to the team’s one-day success.
“Morgs has been a class act for England for many years and if he’s out he’s a big miss,” said leg-spinner Adil Rashid.
“He’s a leader, he’s our captain and he has been for the past three years. He’s done a tremendous job and he gives us input on and off the field – even Saturday he was there with information, where needed.
“He captains really well, he’s clued into the game and he would be a big miss, so hopefully he’ll be back playing in a couple of days.”
Yorkshire’s Rashid is arguably England’s most important bowler in a format that increasingly emphasises, rather than undercuts, the effectiveness of wrist spin.
He took more wickets than any of his team-mates in the ODI series, racking up 10 scalps despite never quite settling into a groove, and assumes senior status in the absence of the rested Moeen Ali.
Yet he was barely able to make an impression against Australia, who asked England to bat first on both occasions and were left with straightforward chases of 156 and 138.
A chronic lack of scoreboard pressure left him little room for manoeuvre at the MCG and he was bullied by Glenn Maxwell to the tune of 20 runs in one over.
“It has been frustrating,” he admitted. “Defending 130-odd when you come on to bowl is pretty hard work for the bowlers. Batsmen don’t play with any pressure when they need six or seven an over. In Twenty20 cricket that is fairly easy.
“We set ourselves high standards, but in these past two games we haven’t quite got it right.”
Rashid will be looking to win the battle of spin against fellow leggie Ish Sodhi and slow left-armer Mitchell Santner – who occupy the lofty heights of third and first in the ICC’s T20 bowling rankings.
The Yorkshireman sits 26th, with England’s highest placed bowler Chris Jordan in 15th, but Rashid is unconcerned about such matters. “We don’t look at people’s rankings or where they are. We just look to play the ball, not the bowler,” he said.
“If they come on I’m sure we’ll have the aggressive mindset of looking to take them down, even if it is No 1 and No 3 in the world.”